Download the survey brief (PDF) - Chicago Council on Global Affairs

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Perceptions of wheong>theong>r unauthorized immigration is increasing, decreasing, or staying ong>theong> samealso influence oong>theong>r views about Mexicans living in ong>theong> United States. Those who think illegalimmigration has increased over ong>theong> past year are less likely to say that Mexican immigrants to ong>theong>United States learn English, respect ong>theong> law, and integrate into American life. Mexicans in ong>theong> UnitedStates are, however, viewed as working hard, regardless of ong>theong> perceptions of unauthorizedimmigration.Overall, almost nine in ten Americans say that most Mexican immigrants to ong>theong> United States workhard (87%, up from 82% in 2004), and more say that most Mexican immigrants respect ong>theong> lawthan not (53% versus 43%). But Americans are evenly divided on wheong>theong>r most Mexicanimmigrants integrate into American life (48% yes, 48% no), and a majority continues to say thatmost Mexican immigrants do not learn English (57% versus 39% yes) (Figure 5).Figure 5. Do you think most Mexican immigrantsto ong>theong> United States: (%)NoYesWork hard1087Integrate into American lifeRespect ong>theong> lawLearn English574843394853Learning English is a significant issue for many Americans. Results from ong>theong> 2012 ong>Chicagoong> ong>Councilong>Midwestern immigration ong>surveyong> found that when Midwesterners were presented with a series ofcriteria and asked which were most important in selecting immigrants to ong>theong> United States,speaking English was considered most important (55% “very important”), more so than not usingsocial benefits (42% “very important”), having skills needed in our country (41% “very important”),filling jobs for which ong>theong>re are not enough able and willing Americans (24% “very important”), andhaving a higher education (23% “very important”). At ong>theong> same time, coming from a culturalbackground “similar to ours” is ong>theong> least important (only 10% “very important”). This may suggestthat Midwesterners are less threatened by immigrants’ impact on American culture and are moreconcerned about immigrants integrating into ong>theong>ir new home.Partisan Differences in Public Attitudes toward Mexicans in ong>theong> United States Are StarkThese results also suggest that Republican opposition to immigration reform may rest upon ong>theong>irconstituents’ negative views of Mexican immigrants. Self-described Republicans are more negativetoward Mexicans living in ong>theong> United States than oong>theong>r groups of immigrants (e.g., Brazilian orChinese immigrants) or towards Mexicans who live in Mexico (Figure 6). In addition, ong>theong>y are muchless positive in rating Mexican immigrants on various attributes such as learning English,respecting ong>theong> law, and integrating into American life (Figure 7).5

Figure 6. Views of people (% favorable)Republicans Democrats IndependentsChinese immigrants in ong>theong> USBrazilian immigrants in ong>theong> USMexican immigrants in ong>theong> USMexicans living in Mexico386363597269697874798285Figure 7. Do you think most Mexican immigrantsto ong>theong> United States... (% yes)Republicans Democrats IndependentsLearn English234253Respect ong>theong> law455365Integrate into American life404861Work hard888695At ong>theong> Same Time, Perceived Threat from Illegal Immigration at a Record LowWhile Americans overestimate ong>theong> number of undocumented immigrants living in ong>theong> UnitedStates, ong>theong>y are actually less threatened by illegal immigration now than at any point since 1994.The 2012 biennial ong>Chicagoong> ong>Councilong> Survey conducted nationwide showed that for ong>theong> first time inong>Chicagoong> ong>Councilong> Survey history, only a minority (40%) of Americans considered immigration acritical threat to ong>theong> United States. Public perceptions of immigration as a critical threat declined astaggering 32 points over ong>theong> course of eighteen years (Figure 8).6

Figure 8. Large numbers of immigrants and refugeescoming into ong>theong> country (% critical threat)72556052 51 51 51401994 1998 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012ConclusionThese ong>surveyong> results show that Americans may be more open to immigration reform now than inong>theong> past 18 years in ong>theong> sense that anxiety over undocumented immigrants in ong>theong> United States hasfallen sharply over that period and more now than nearly 10 years ago believe ong>theong> United States,raong>theong>r than Mexico, should take ong>theong> lead in dealing with illegal immigration.Despite ong>theong> finding that half ong>theong> public thinks undocumented immigration flows have increased inong>theong> past year, a majority favor a reform option that would allow undocumented workers to stay inong>theong> United States eiong>theong>r temporarily (with a work permit) or permanently (with a pathway tocitizenship under certain conditions). An analysis of ong>theong> poll numbers shows that public educationefforts to inform Americans about ong>theong> real trend in net-zero illegal inflows into ong>theong> United Statescould help raise public support for immigration reform.For more analysis of public opinion on international affairs and foreign policy, follow ong>theong> RunningNumbers blog (www.runningnumbers.org) featuring ong>Chicagoong> ong>Councilong> and oong>theong>r ong>surveyong>s.For more information, please contact ong>theong> authors of this report, Dina Smeltz, senior fellow, publicopinion and foreign policy (dsmeltz@ong>theong>chicagocouncil.org; 312.821.6860), or Craig Kafura, seniorprogram officer, (ckafura@ong>theong>chicagocouncil.org; 312.821.7650). Research assistance was alsoprovided by Gregory Holyk of Langer Research.This ong>surveyong> was made possible by generous support from Douglas A. Doetsch, Evans Food Group,Ltd., Rob and Kitty Lansing, Clare Muñana, and The Quaker Oats Company, a division of PepsiCo.MethodologyThis report is based on ong>theong> results of a ong>Chicagoong> ong>Councilong> ong>surveyong> of public opinion conducted fromApril 12 to 15, 2013. GfK Custom Research conducted ong>theong> ong>surveyong> for The ong>Chicagoong> ong>Councilong> using arandomly selected sample of 1,017 adults age 18 and older from ong>theong>ir large-scale, nationwideonline research panel, recruited using address-based sampling. The margin of error for this ong>surveyong>is ±3.1 percentage points. The margin of error is higher when analyses are conducted amongsubgroups.7

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